Roger Daltrey Says It's Too Much of a Financial Risk for the Who to Tour North America

"Touring has become very difficult since COVID. Most of the big bands doing arena shows [...] you're upwards [of] $600,000 to a million in the hole."

Photo: Rick Clifford

BY Megan LaPierrePublished Apr 10, 2023

As Neil Young succinctly put it last month, "touring is broken." Of course, he was talking about the outrageous Ticketmaster fees in light of the Cure's mission to make their North American tour affordable for fans — but the well-documented flipside is the current financial investment artists have to make to head out on the road in the precarious COVID-19 pandemic touring climate.

Consequently, Roger Daltrey is "doubtful" the Who will ever come back to North America. In a recent interview with USA Today, the frontman admitted that the band didn't have any plans to return to the US (and, usually in turn, Canada) following last year's North American tour, which may have been their last.

"I don't know if we'll ever come back to tour America," Daltrey told the publication's Melissa Ruggieri. "There is only one tour we could do, an orchestrated Quadrophenia to round out the catalogue. But that's one tall order to sing that piece of music, as I'll be 80 next year. I never say never, but at the moment it's very doubtful."

While he acknowledged concerns about his own aging and ability, the musician went on to make it clear that the biggest problem is the current state of the live music industry amid the ongoing pandemic.

"Touring has become very difficult since COVID," he continued. "We cannot get insured and most of the big bands doing arena shows, by the time they do their first show and rehearsals and get the staging and crew together, all the buses and hotels, you're upwards [of] $600,000 to a million in the hole."

In 2022, acts like Animal Collective and Santigold decided to cancel tours due to lack of financial viability — and Lorde penned an edition of her email newsletter explaining the current "demented struggle to break even or face debt" facing touring musicians.

Since then, the US Department of Homeland Security has been eyeing an opportunity to make it even more expensive for international artists to tour the US, proposing a 200 percent increase in short-term work visa fees.

Daltrey explained, "To earn that [money] back, if you're doing a 12-show run, you don't start to earn it back until the seventh or eighth show. That's just how the business works. The trouble now is if you get COVID after the first show, you've (lost) that money."

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